Newport Wastesavers don’t like the word rubbish. They think of what they collect as a resource, something which is recycled and reused in our cars, TVs, insulation rolls and even football shirts.

And they do so much more than just collect the recycling from our doorstep – they do a lot of education work both in schools and with youngsters excluded from school and they are also involved in furniture re-use and business recycling.

They are not part of Newport City Council but are contracted by them.


Phil Hurst has worked with Wastesavers, which is based right by the Transporter Bridge in Esperanto Way, for almost a year.


Voice: How did you get involved with Wastesavers?

PH: The usual way – a job advert. I’ve worked in charity communications for years so it wasn’t  a major shift for me. Wastesavers is a charity and social enterprise. It’s run like a business but with no shareholders.  Any profit is allocated to Wastesavers charity.


V: How important is it for the people of Newport (and beyond) to embrace recycling?

PH: Recycling is very important. It’s one of the few daily tasks we undertake that has a significant and positive impact on the environment. It’s also an industry, creating jobs here in the UK. All the materials we collect are re-processed in the UK. This social impact is as important as the environmental impact. It’s also important for businesses (we do a lot of commercial collections).  General waste costs more to dispose of than recycling. We see business recycling as an increasingly important part of our business.


V: Do you think it is made easy enough for people to recycle – and why?

PH: It’s pretty easy but there are always opportunities for improvement. Keeping materials in separate boxes or communal bins isn’t complicated. This is the main reason we get the best price for materials coming out of Newport. That is crucial as it keeps costs down – a saving that is passed on to the council and eventually council tax payers.


V: What is the most unusual thing you have come across at the recycling centre

PH: Because we sort it before it gets onto the truck, unusual stuff does not get back here to base – it’s left with a note where we pick it up from.  The most unusual thing in a box  was a live snake a few years ago. That didn’t make it onto the truck. We had a spate last autumn of our drivers finding wallets on the road full of cash and cards. Managed to reunite them with their owners – one was in Bristol.


V: How much comes through you per week/month or year?

PH: Last 12 months:  Tonnes:  Plastic 1,800; Glass 3,400; paper 3,100; food 4,500, steel cans 550; aluminium cans 210; Cardboard 300 (The council collect the cardboard hence small figure); textiles 130; small electrical items 20; aluminium foil 18. 


V: Do you ever have people turning up who have accidently thrown something out desperately looking for it and if so, what can you do to help?

PH: That happens a couple of times a year. A few months ago we had a child’s comfort blanket . Also a full kid’s rugby kit and an urgent phone call from a mum.  All worked out fine in the end. If all materials were collected together there would be no chance of recovering these kind of items.


V: Give us a list of the types of things you accept for recycling?

PH:As well as all the usual materials (plastics, cardboard, cans etc) we take small electrical items (kettles, toasters etc). If it fits in the box we will take it (computer printers are often asked about).  Larger items of furniture, if reusable, can be collected for free by the reuse centre. But it has to be reusable – we can’t take rubbish.  It’s then resold. The process of collecting and reselling creates work experience opportunities for local people. We have always used a team of volunteers at the reuse centre, but not on the recycling side of the business.


V: With things like furniture, do you have somewhere to sell it on or give it to people in need?

PH: The reuse centre in Lliswerry has a large stock. We pick up individual items and also do house clearances. We also sell refurbished computers down there.


V: How has recycling in the area changed over the years?

PH: Today we take a wider variety of materials than ever before.  Food is the latest addition. This is really good because it gets turned into biofuel – generating electricity – and fertilizer. There has also been a major shift in the materials we collect. Paper is down, cardboard and plastic are up. You can gain great insights into society from the materials they class as waste. People are buying fewer newspapers due to the digital revolution. Similarly people are buying more things through online shops like Amazon, hence the jump in cardboard. Plastic packaging has just taken off in the last few years.


V: Have the people of Newport embraced it or do you think more can be done?

PH: For the vast majority of people in Newport it’s now a normal part or life. We currently have an 85 per cent participation rate.  When we started 30 years ago it was seen as something the ‘greenies’ did – now it’s mainstream.  That shift is continuing as less and less is going to landfill. I challenge you to try and find someone who is anti-recycling - very few out there.


V: What is the recycling target for the city?

PH: The Welsh government has set a target of 70 per cent by 2025. Newport is currently on 52 per cent. The long term aim is that by 2050 Wales becomes a ‘zero waste’ nation. By ‘zero waste’ we generally mean nothing is sent to landfill – it’s not that the average household will produce no waste materials. These targets and figures, however, need to be treated with caution. They are based on tonnages not sent to landfill. So there is a bias towards heavy materials being more important to fulfil the figures.  A more rigorous approach would be to measure the ecological footprint.  Light materials like plastic bottles have a huge amount of energy embedded in them but weigh very little.  Cardboard has much less energy embedded but weighs a lot more. Leave it out in the rain and the tonnage goes up but you are collecting water!


V: What about fly-tipping?

PH: Fly-tipping to me illustrates an attitude to life in general. If you fly tip you clearly have no consideration for anybody else who might live nearby or use the area. I suspect that attitude extends into other aspects of their lives – a general lack of consideration for others. We don’t get involved in any of that – general waste is the council’s responsibility.


V: What’s the most rewarding part of being involved with Wastesaver?

PH: The people. We have a great team down here with a ‘can do’ positive attitude. For the collection teams this can be a tough job. Each collector picks up on average two tonnes of materials a day and in the cold and wet that’s no fun. There is also a huge level of support out there for what we do.


V: What’s the most annoying part of your job?

PH: Finding communal bins in flats that people have dumped anything from old nappies to syringes in.  It only takes one person to spoil things for everybody else. We then can’t take the materials because it’s general waste. Residents then get frustrated that we can’t pick it up and a kind of cycle starts. Sometimes the problem is that people have put say cans in the plastic communal bins. I can understand a moment of getting things a bit wrong. But when people put nappies, dog dirt in bags or large car parts in cardboard bins,  then that’s annoying.